What Made Martin Truex, Jr. The Champion?

Martin Truex, Jr.

Understandably, the proudest moment of Martin Truex’s racing life was simultaneously a source of enormous frustration for Kyle Busch.

But both drivers recall with indelible clarity the closing laps of the Nov. 19 Ford Eco-Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race that made Truex a champion and Busch a disappointed runner-up for the title.

For the record, Truex powered his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota across the finish line, with Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .681 seconds in arrears. But the outcome was in doubt for the final 17 laps, after Busch passed Kevin Harvick for second place on Lap 250 of 267 and took off after Truex, who had claimed the lead off pit road for a restart on Lap 234.

With Busch driving a faster long-run car, Truex found a small patch of grip high in Turn 4 and kept Busch’s Camry in his mirror.

“For me, it’s probably one of my proudest moments, because I got put in that position, and my guys said, ‘Here it is; it’s all up to you now; here’s the lead with 32 laps to go – show us what you’ve got,’” Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service.

“It’s definitely one of the proudest moments of my career to be able to bring it home for them, after all, they’ve done for me and giving me the opportunity they have and putting me in a position to be a champion. I was glad I could hold up my end of the deal.”

Though Truex hasn’t watched a replay of the race in its entirety, he relishes the memory of every second of the closing green-flag run.

“I can remember every single one of those laps,” Truex said. “I can remember everything that happened, everything I thought, when I missed the line when I hit it, and, most importantly, when I found that little patch of grip up there off of Turn 4.

“That was the game-changer for me.”

For Busch, not so much.

“I tried that same patch – it didn’t work for me,” Busch said after Wednesday’s Myers Brothers Awards ceremony in the Encore Theater. “I tried to get as close to the wall as I could off of (Turn) 4. I was way too loose. I just didn’t have the drive-off that I needed, and I think that was a lot to do with being in his wake, just being behind him and having the aero deficiency that I had.”

The final 15 laps weren’t just a two-car battle. Enter Kyle Larson, who charged past Harvick for the third position on Lap 252 and, running against the outside wall, quickly rolled up near Busch’s back bumper and began contemplating his prospects of passing the No. 18.

“I got to third, and I felt like, if I was going to win or pass those guys – which I felt like I could – I needed to pass them before 10 (laps) to go,” said Larson, who was eliminated from championship contention by an engine failure at Kansas Speedway.

“I felt like, once we got to 10 to go, I needed to respect them and kind of let things play out between those two… I didn’t want to screw one guy and not the other.”

Interestingly, Busch contemplated letting Larson pass him in the closing laps.

“I actually thought about, with maybe 15 to go, something like that… he (Larson) was really close to me, and I was like, ‘I wonder if I let him go, and he gets in-between us if he’ll go and try to race Truex and pass Truex and help Truex come back to me,” Busch said.

“So I thought about doing that, but I said I can’t give in to that at this moment of letting somebody else within the battle, because, if he doesn’t go up and pass the 78, he just pushes me further behind. That’s why I stayed the way we were and tried to fight it out.”

With Truex making ground near the top of the track, Busch tried a low line, and with three laps left, he lost momentum off Turn 2. With a head of steam around the top, Larson was there to give the No. 18 a nudge.

“I was hoping to launch him forward, but I kind of got him squirrely,” Larson said. “I’m glad he didn’t hit the wall, because I was just trying to help him out. Not that I wanted him to win over Martin. I just wanted to get him closer to make the racing more exciting, I guess.”

In the moment, Busch understood Larson’s intent.

“I knew that was a moment of help,” Busch said. “It wasn’t a moment of trying to screw with me at all. I knew what that was. It’s just that these cars are so loose on the straightaways, with not a lot of downforce, and of course, we were on older tires, with higher air pressure and everything like that, and it got me juked up.

“But I was expecting that, and I was fine with it. It was all good.”

In the end, the bump from Larson didn’t help enough to put Truex’s title in jeopardy. But it helped to make the final 17 laps of the event some of the most riveting in recent memory.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The NASCAR World Honors The 2018 Cup Champion

Martin Truex, Jr.

The centerpiece of Thursday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards Ceremony was Martin Truex Jr., a first-time champion who earned the title in stock car racing’s foremost division with a Furniture Row Racing team that got its unlikely start as a single-car operation in Denver, Colorado.

But the sport also bid farewell—as a full-time driver—to Dale Earnhardt Jr., not only by conferring a 15th straight NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on the 26-time race winner, but also by recognizing his accomplishments with the prestigious Bill France Award of Excellence.

Earnhardt, in fact, introduced Truex, his close friend, as the 2017 champion, and there was no doubt Truex deserved the honor. Driving the No. 78 Toyota, Truex led the series in victories with eight and laps led with 2,253.

With the advent of stage racing for the 2017 season, Truex dominated the new format, accumulating a series-best 19 stages wins and enough playoff points to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with one race left in the Round of 8.

Truex then capped the season with a dramatic victory at Homestead, holding off championship runner-up Kyle Busch by .681 seconds.

“I’d have to say the new stage racing worked out pretty well for us,” Truex quipped during his speech, after NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France handed him the championship ring.

Truex’s season, however, wasn’t without its difficult moments. His long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, suffered a recurrence earlier this year. The “Never give up” motto of the No. 78 team also became a mantra in Truex’s personal life.

“No one has lived that out more than my life partner Sherry,” Truex said. “She is the true champion.”

Team owner Barney Visser suffered a heart attack late in the season and, after surgery, was unable to attend the festivities at the Wynn Las Vegas. Visser’s son Tim accepted the champion owner’s award in his stead and assured those at the ceremony that his father was doing well.

Furniture Row Racing fabricator Jim Watson passed away unexpectedly during the Kansas Speedway weekend in the Playoff, and Truex offered a toast to Watson from the podium.

“This has been an emotional journey,” Truex said. “I can’t begin to tell you about all the highs and lows.”

One of the absolute lows occurred during 2014, Truex’s first season with the team. Truex posted only one top-five finish that year and ended the season 24th in the series standings.

“In 2014 we struggled, and you didn’t give up on me—thank you,” Truex said team president Joe Garone.

It wasn’t until Truex joined forces with crew chief Cole Pearn late in that first year that the turnaround at Furniture Row started. In 2015 they made it to the Championship 4 and finished fourth. A year later, they were champions.

“You’re the best crew chief and team coach I’ve ever known, and, buddy, thank you for making me a champion,” Truex said to Pearn.

The honors to Truex and the Furniture Row organization followed a special tribute to Earnhardt introduced by the NASCAR chairman.

“The Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France said. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love—NASCAR. Sometimes it’s on the track. Sometimes it’s off the track. And every once in a while, it’s both.

“Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence.”

It was entirely predictable that Earnhardt would receive his 15th Most Popular Driver Award at the end of his final season in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The Bill France Award was a surprise.

“It’s a real honor,” Earnhardt said after a long round of applause. “I always tell people all the time that all I wanted to do in racing was to be able pay my bills and be able to race for a long time. I’ve just enjoyed being a part of the sport.

“I didn’t know whether I’d win races or have the opportunity to win championships. I just wanted to be in it. I feel lucky and fortunate to have been able to do some good things, inside the car and outside the car. I always tried to take a lot of pride in taking the sport to new places and introducing it to new people.

“I’ve got to thank the fans, because without them, none of the opportunities that I ever had in racing would have happened.”

Earnhardt then had some sage advice for Truex.

“I remember when I won my first race, my dad (the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.) said, ‘Celebrate this,’ and I know what he meant after all these years, ‘cause you never get to celebrate that first win again,” Earnhardt said.

“You never get to celebrate that first championship again, so we’re going to celebrate it good tonight, Martin.”

In his runner-up speech, Kyle Busch also made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Earnhardt. He thanks NASCAR’s most popular driver for “converting all of Junior Nation into Rowdy fans.” That was one of the biggest laugh lines of the night.

Not lost among the festivities was the contribution 2003 champion Matt Kenseth has made to the sport. With no concrete plans for next year after completing his final season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kenseth has announced a hiatus from the sport, one he acknowledges could mark the end of his career as a Monster Energy Series driver.

“Matt, I wish you the best in the future,” Truex said from the podium. “You’re an awesome person and a great driver.”

Truex and Busch, along with Playoff drivers Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, led Toyota to its second straight manufacturers championship.

In a poignant tribute, Bob Carter, executive vice president, sales for Toyota Motor North America, dedicated the championship to J.D. Gibbs. The son of team owner Joe Gibbs has been stricken with a serious neurological disorder.

“J.D. is a friend to everyone in this room,” Carter said. “He’s a father. He’s a great person to be with. J.D., I know you’re home watching. You’re recovering. You’re a fighter. This celebration, this manufacturer’s award is on behalf of you.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex And FRR Is The Little Train That Did!

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season with a tenacious late-race drive to capture the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex, who led four times for 78 laps in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch while leading the final 51 laps. His margin of victory over Busch was 0.681 seconds. Truex needed to finish ahead of Busch and the two other Championship 4 drivers — Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski — to claim the season title.

The victory was the eighth of the season for Truex, who now owns 15 career Cup wins. Thirteen of those wins have been with the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.

The 2017 season for Furniture Row Racing also saw the No. 78 team win the regular season championship and Erik Jones of the No. 77 team win Rookie of the Year.

Truex was no doubt deserving of the title. In the 10-playoff races he won four times and scored nine top fives. The only non top-five finish was 23rd at Talladega where he was involved in a multicar accident.  His overall playoff average finish was 4.3.  Take away the Talladega result, his average finish in the other nine races was 2.2.

When the white flag waved at Homestead Truex knew the championship was his, and when he crossed the finish line the emotion of the herculean moment left him speechless.

“I balled like a baby, I couldn’t talk,” said Truex. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over and times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the people who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex added, “This means the world. (team owner) Barney Visser 11 years of working towards this goal. He couldn’t be here tonight and we’re all thinking of him. Definitely wish he could have been here. I know he’s probably as much in shock as I am. Jim Watson, Cole’s best friend (Jacob Damen) and Sherry. This one is for all of you!”

Truex, started the 267-lap race second. He had some handling issues early, but as the race wore on, his Toyota Camry found more grip in a lane he never ran in the past on the 1.5-mile oval.

“It’s the dumbest lane I’ve ever run here, but it worked, so I have to put it in the memory bank for later,” explained Truex. “Just all came together – it was meant to be. This whole year has been a dream year.

“We’ve got the best fans in the world and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that puts so much into this — Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners, WIX, 5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, the road crew and the guys back at the shop in Denver. The list goes on and on of people who help us do this and make it all possible. And Barney Visser back home had heart surgery last week and we’re missing him today. Thanks to everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the chassis and cooperation and running one-two tonight was pretty awesome.”

According to crew chief Cole Pearn, the planning for Homestead started long before the championship race.

“We just focused on this race for a long time,” said Pearn. “We knew if we were going to be champions, we were going to have to get a lot better here. I can’t thank the number of hours that everybody put into this car and into this race. You know coming here and testing there are a lot of wives on our team who will be happy that this car made it and did what it did and it took every hour of it.

“We had to race three other great guys and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good. I think they were honestly a little better than us and Martin was able to dig down and get it done. I don’t really know how to comprehend it at this point. Just so so thrilled and be able to truly call ourselves champions is unbelievable.”

Truex and Furniture Row Racing will take center stage during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, which will culminate with the NASCAR Awards Banquet at The Wynn on Thursday, Nov. 30.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Wins The Ford EcoBoost 400 And The Championship

Martin Truex, Jr.

 At the end of a riveting, breathtaking battle that had fans in the grandstands on their feet long after the checkered flag, Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Busch by .681 seconds at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win Sunday’s Ford Eco-Boost 400 and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

In Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Truex—one of Earnhardt’s closest friends—kept Busch behind him during a 34-lap green-flag run to the finish.

“It’s just overwhelming,” a tearful Truex said in Victory Lane. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that we couldn’t run 20th, to be here—I never thought this day would come, and to be here is so unbelievable.”

The victory was a timely gift for Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser, who is back home in Denver, Colo., recovering from a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. It was also a gift to Truex’s long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has been battling ovarian cancer.

“A lot of it was for her,” said Truex, who won for the first time at Homestead and the 15th time in his career. “A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team – just, I don’t even know what to say. We just never gave up all day long. We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep.”

The victory also was entirely appropriate. For the bulk of the season, Truex was the top driver in the series. Sunday’s victory was his eighth of the year, a series-best, and his seventh on 1.5-mile intermediate speedways. Truex had the No. 78 Toyota out front for 78 laps on Sunday, bringing his season total of laps led to a career-best 2,253, also tops in the series.

With an excellent long-run car, Busch slipped to fourth after the final restart on Lap 234 of 267 and needed nine laps to pass the stubborn No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano. Seven laps later, Busch slipped past fellow Championship 4 contender Kevin Harvick into second and set his sights on Truex.

Busch closed rapidly, but Truex found a line that allowed him to maintain an edge that shrank to as little as two car lengths. But Busch never could pull alongside his fellow Camry driver, and Truex inched away over the last four circuits.

“I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today, and (with) 20 (laps) to go, I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long,” Truex said. “I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use, and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen.

“I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams, no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through. And thank you, Barney. I wish you were here, buddy.”

Kyle Larson finished third, closely trailing the championship battle after moving past Harvick for third on Lap 252. Harvick came home fourth, after debris from David Starr’s Chevrolet punched a hole in the nose of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

“I was just really loose the whole last run,” Harvick said. “When it started to get dark, we started to get tight in the corner, and then we got a hole in the nose. We got that fixed and just couldn’t quite get it where we needed to be to make good times.

“Some runs we fell off. Some runs we were tight on entry. There at the end we were just too loose.”

Chase Elliott and Joey Logano ran fifth and sixth, respectively. Playoff driver Brad Keselowski finished sixth, ending the season fourth in the series standings.

Busch opted for a one-pit-stop strategy during the final stage of the race and appeared headed for the title until his brother, Kurt Busch, spun in Turn 4 on Lap 227 to bring out the fifth and final caution of the event and bunch the field for the restart on Lap 234.

“Yeah, it wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” Busch said. “I thought we had a really great race car. Especially on the long runs, we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end, not having enough tire when I got to the 78.

“So I just overused my stuff, and I knew I overused my stuff when I was running with the 22 (Logano) trying to get by him and just overworked everything, and got to the 4 (Harvick), got by him pretty quick. I tried to make sure that I could do that pretty quick so then I could have at least a little more tire life, but didn’t seem to pay me off any when I got to the 78.”

Notes: Earnhardt finished 25th in his final run in the No. 88 Chevy… Danica Patrick cut a tire and clobbered the Turn 2 wall on Lap 142 in her final trip in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. She plans to race in the Cup series for the final time in the 2018 Daytona 500… Patrick also collected Kasey Kahne in her wreck. Kahne ran his final race for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday and will move to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet next season… Truex’s teammate, Erik Jones, was crowned Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the series after finishing 21st. Jones will take Matt Kenseth’s place in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota next season. Kenseth finished eighth Sunday in his final ride in the car.

Check out the unofficial results of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr.’s 2017 Championship Resume

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex, Jr’s season numbers:

2 – Number of times Martin Truex Jr. has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoffs format.

3 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

3 – Number of Coors Light poles Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

4.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.

7 – Number of wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season; including three during the Playoffs – (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Charlotte-2, Kansas-2).

7 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

9.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the entire 2017 season.

12.3 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway

18 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

19 – Number of stage wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

25 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.

101.8 – Martin Truex Jr.’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

111 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Martin Truex Jr.

115.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s 2017 driver rating (series-best).

119.81 – Martin Truex Jr.’s driver rating during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.

2,175 – Laps led by Martin Truex Jr. in 2017.

The One Without A Title

“That means it’s my turn.”

That was Martin Truex Jr.’s response following the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix when he was reminded that he is the lone driver in the 2017 Championship 4 who does not have the title “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion” after his name.

Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015) have all hoisted the coveted year-end prize above their heads on the frontstretch at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex Jr. had a shot as a member of the Championship 4 in 2015, but finished 12th in the race.

It has been a gradual climb to greatness for Martin Truex Jr. with Furniture Row Racing – but the journey has been grand for him. His seven wins in 2017 doubled his career total, bringing him to 14. He went winless in his first year with the team (2014), made one trip to Victory Lane in his second season and then broke out with four wins in 2016. (Truex’s other two wins came in 2007 with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing.)

Now, he just needs the championship to reach the summit.

The One Without A Title, Team Edition

Not only is Martin Truex Jr. racing for his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, so is Furniture Row Racing.

Their Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Team Penske with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Stewart-Haas Racing with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing with Kyle Busch – 2015).

Furniture Row Racing started racing in the Monster Energy Series in 2005 and collected their first pole in 2008 with Joe Nemechek. They didn’t tally their first win until 2011 (with Regan Smith) and qualified for the Playoffs in 2013 – the first single-car team to do so.

Truex Jr. joined the then one-car operation based in Denver, Colorado, for the 2014 season. Cole Pearn then took over atop the pit box in 2015 with the No. 78 Toyota made it to the Championship 4 in his inaugural year with Truex Jr.

Their fourth-place finish in the season standings in 2015 was the best thus far for the team and they have been breaking team records for wins and laps led ever since.

The One Without A Title, Crew Chief Edition

There is one more person looking for a huge first championship this weekend – the crew chief of the No. 78 Toyota, Cole Pearn.

His Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Paul Wolfe with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Rodney Childers with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Adam Stevens with Kyle Busch – 2015).

Cole Pearn took the reins with the Furniture Row Racing team in 2015 and all he has done since then is prove he’s one of the best in the business.

He tallied one win atop the pit box in his first year while guiding Martin Truex Jr. to the Championship 4 and a fourth-place finish in the standings. He then captured four wins and five poles in 2016, setting new team records in both categories.

And you already know the numbers he’s put on the board in 2017 – seven wins, 18 top fives and 25 top 10s.

Reversing Recent Fortune In Miami

In order for Martin Truex Jr. to win the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s going to have to reverse his recent fortune at the 1.5-mile track. His last three finishes there? 17, 12, and 36.

But if there’s anyone who can power to the front on a 1.5-mile track, it’s Martin Truex Jr. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing has recorded six wins at that distance in 2017 (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas-2). When he drove into Victory Lane at the second Kansas race, it marked the first time in NASCAR history that a driver won four consecutive races on 1.5-mile tracks.

So, we’re saying there’s a chance Truex Jr. could drive to his first career win on the South Florida track – and therefore to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Pretty Much Perfect On Paper

If you were forced to pick a favorite heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, you would probably choose Martin Truex Jr.

He leads the field, not just the Championship 4, in nearly every statistical category. Seven wins. 18 top fives. 25 top 10s. 2,175 laps led. An average finish of 9.7 (more than two positions better than Kyle Busch’s 11.8).

And a season-long driver rating that’s seven points better than his next closest Championship 4 competitor (115.7 compared to Busch’s 108.2).

Did I mention he has six wins this season on 1.5-mile tracks? Which just happens to be the length of the host track this weekend.

It’s hard to pick against those numbers!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Had Another Very Strong Race At Phoenix

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. had another strong playoff run, finishing third in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. The result was a career best for the Furniture Row Racing driver at Phoenix Raceway.

“We go into each race with the same attitude and that is to be a contender for the win,” said Truex. “You can’t turn it off and on in this sport. We’ve had trouble at this track in the past but had a good game plan coming in.

“We stuck with the plan all weekend and we were right there all day. It was a good day for Furniture Row Racing (teammate Erik Jones finished fourth) and I hope this put a smile on the face of our owner Barney Visser. We’re all thinking of him during his recovery.”

Truex will close out the 2017 season next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the Championship 4 drivers vying for the season title. He will be joined by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. The driver who scores the best finish among the four finalists will be crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“We’re all excited about going to Homestead with the opportunity of winning the championship,” stated Truex. “This is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

Truex, who started the Phoenix race fifth in the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, powered by a TRD engine, basically ran in the top-five for the entire race.

“We were right there all day long,” said Truex. “Had a sniff at the lead a couple times – just couldn’t quite get it – but I’ve got to say I’m so proud of (race winner) Matt (Kenseth) and his team and the year they’ve had and really the position they’re in right now. To go out and win that race was unbelievable, so I was really, really happy for him. He did an awesome job.”

With one race remaining, Truex has garnered seven wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10s and 2175 laps led — all series leading numbers.

Take away the Talladega wreckfest race, Truex’s average finish in the other eight playoff races is 2.37.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Has 1200 Reasons To Win At Phoenix

Martin Truex, Jr.
Though he already clinched a Championship 4 berth, Martin Truex Jr. has more than 1200 reasons to go all out in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, the final event in the Round of 8 playoffs.

Riding along with Truex in the 312-lap race will be 1200 Auto-Owners Insurance associates, plus family and friends, whose names will be on the hood of the No. 78 Toyota. The Auto-Owners associates took part in the Race with Martin campaign by donating money to the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation which supports a number of causes including childhood cancer and ovarian cancer. The employee contribution along with an Auto-Owners company match totaled $75,000.

“They (Auto-Owners) kept the Race with Martin campaign a secret from me,” said Truex. “And when I was presented the $75,000 check for our foundation, I was overwhelmed and lost for words. It just blew me away. The best way I could thank them was winning the Charlotte race that same day (Oct. 8) in the No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota. And the best way I can thank those 1200 associates riding with me on Sunday is to once again drive the blue car to Victory Lane.”

Truex, a seven-time winner this season, clinched the final four spot after finishing runner-up Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Thanks to a bankroll of playoff bonus points earned throughout the season, Truex advanced to the championship round on points. He needed to leave Texas with a 56-point margin ahead of the fourth place driver. He left with a 57-point lead over Brad Keselowski, who is positioned in fourth place heading to Phoenix.

Truex joins Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as the three drivers who already clinched a final four berth for the Homestead-Miami Speedway race on Sunday Nov. 19.

“We’re going into Phoenix as if we need to win the race to make it to Homestead,” said Truex. “You can’t turn it off and on, you have to continue the way you have been doing things and keeping building momentum.

“The biggest challenge for Phoenix is to find grip and to have consistency where it is somewhat comfortable over the long runs. The hardest thing to figure out are the ends of the racetrack, which are completely different.”

So far Truex is having a consistent playoff run. Take away the 19-car pile-up he was involved in at Talladega, his average finish in the other seven playoff races is 2.28.  He has scored three wins, two runners-up, a fourth and a fifth.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Has A Reservation At Homestead!

Martin Truex, Jr.
There were no high-fives or pats on the back by Furniture Row Racing after Martin Truex Jr. clinched a spot in the Final Four as a result of finishing second in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

But there was an expected sigh of relief for the Denver, Colo.-based team, which will compete for the season championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19.

It will be Truex’s second time as a Final Four participant. He also accomplished the feat in 2015.

Truex is one of three drivers locked into the Final four. He joins Kyle Busch and Sunday’s race winner Kevin Harvick. The final participant will determined in Phoenix next week (Sunday Nov. 12).

The NASCAR Cup Series champion will be determined at Homestead with the driver having the best finish among the four finalists.

The 334-lap AAA Texas 500 was a mixture of emotions for the No. 78 team. Truex, who led a race high of 107 laps, lost the lead to Harvick with 10 laps remaining on the 1.5-mile track. Before losing the lead, Truex led 37 consecutive laps.

“The Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota got loose in the final run and we just couldn’t hold off the No. 4 (Harvick),” said Truex. “But on the good side of things, we did what we had to do to compete for the season title at Homestead in two weeks. I am really proud of this team, the guys on the road and all the guys back at the shop in Denver for building fast race cars.”

Regarding the final run of 47 laps, Truex said, “On the long runs I would get really loose getting into the corners. As the run went on, I would get looser and looser. Wasn’t much I could do about it. I could hold my own in clean air, but as soon as I caught lapped cars, I would get loose in the corner. He (Harvick) got to my outside and was just faster at the end. Once he got in front of us he was just gone. Nothing I could do. Just one of those deals where he was quicker.”

The Texas result was the second straight runner-up result for Truex, who also finished second last week in Martinsville, Va. Take away the Talladega playoff race where Truex was involved in multicar accident, his average finish in the other seven playoff races is 2.28. He has had three wins, two runners-up, a fourth and a fifth.

The Texas result was also Truex’s 17th top-five and 24th top-10 finish of the season. And going into Phoenix, he continues to lead the point standings.

The race had 27 lead changes among 13 drivers. There were eight cautions for 40 laps and one red flag for 10 minutes.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Some Eye Popping Numbers In The Round Of 8

Martin Truex, Jr.
Is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. a shoo-in to make the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

Maybe. He has a big enough lead that he could clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday at Texas without winning the AAA Texas 500. If a Playoff driver other than Truex or Kyle Busch takes the checkered flag, Truex can clinch with a lead of 56 points or more over the second-place non-winning Playoff driver.

If Busch or a non-Playoff driver happens to win, Truex will clinch if he holds a lead of 56 points or more over the third-place non-winning Playoff driver.

On the other hand, Truex has three DNFs (did not finish) at both Texas and Phoenix for a total of six. The other seven Playoff drivers have a combined seven DNFs at the two tracks. Though Truex is a strong bet to advance, he’ll have to avoid calamity – and that’s not a guarantee.

Interestingly, the only two Playoff drivers without a DNF at either track are last week’s Martinsville combatants, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Hamlin has a combined 47 starts at Texas and Phoenix. Elliott’s sample size is much smaller – three starts at each track.

But if Elliott decides to get some payback for last Sunday’s wreck and has the opportunity to do so, Hamlin’s unblemished streak could end!

Elliott has the best combined average finish at the final two tracks in the Round of 8 – 6.0 at Texas and 9.7 at Phoenix, again with a small sample. The second-best combined average finish belongs to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, with 8.1 at Texas and 9.0 at Phoenix in 56 starts combined.

The driver who scored the highest number of stage points in the spring races at Texas and Phoenix is Ryan Blaney, who will start eighth in the AAA Texas 500. Blaney claimed seven stage points at Phoenix in March and won the first and second stages at Texas (worth 10 points each) in April before finishing 12th.

In five starts at Texas, however, Blaney has by far the worst average finish (27.6) but has come home 12th in each of the last two races in Fort Worth.

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski scored the second most stage points on the initial visits to the tracks this year – 23 each.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex Wants To Add Another Mile And A Half Victory

Martin Truex, Jr.
Though he can rewrite some of his own NASCAR Cup Series records during this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, that is not foremost on the mind of Martin Truex Jr.

Following his win at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago, Truex set two 1.5-mile records — most season wins on a 1.5-mile track (6) and most consecutive 1.5-mile wins (4).

With the mile-and-a-half Texas Motor Speedway being the next stop in the Round of 8 playoffs, needless to say Truex and his Furniture Row Racing teammates are looking forward to the speedy Texas track.

“We like going to Texas and feel we can run well there,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. “But just because we’ve had some pretty good success at mile-and-a-half tracks, there’s no guarantee of achieving similar results. We have to go out there and prove ourselves again.”

Truex added, “There are now seven drivers fighting for those three remaining Championship 4 spots. We’ve had good runs at Texas in the past, but have not closed the deal there. First and foremost, we want to have a strong race at Texas and acquire as many points as we can.”

Truex will be seeking his sixth straight top-10 at Texas. He finished eighth there in the spring and third in last year’s fall race.

With Kyle Busch winning at Martinsville Speedway and gaining an automatic transfer to the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Truex, who leads in the overall playoff point standings, has a 67-point margin over the fifth-place driver.

“Until a NASCAR official tells me we have mathematically clinched a final-four berth we aren’t taking anything for granted,” stated Truex, who is coming off a runner-up finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. “This is racing and a lot of strange things can happen.”

So far, Truex has enjoyed a solid playoff season. Take away the Talladega (Ala.)  Superspeedway race where he was involved in a multicar accident, his average finish in the other six races is 2.33. In those six races he has scored three wins (Chicagoland, Charlotte, Kansas) a second (Martinsville), fourth (Dover) and fifth (New Hampshire).

“It’s what’s ahead of us that counts, not behind us,” said Truex. “Yes, it’s been a lot of fun so far, but the mission is not complete. We want to get to Homestead and be one of the four teams competing for the season championship. We feel we have what it takes, just need to avoid mistakes and stay away from trouble.”

Truex’s season record to date includes career season highs for wins (7) top fives (16), top 10s (23) and laps led (2068).

His career record at Texas includes 24 starts, three top fives, 13 top 10s and 488 laps led. His average Texas start is 15.2 and average finish is 13.6.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!